Telstra has been found to have overcharged some 11,000 customers between 2018 to 2021, and has been ordered to pay $2.2 million in refunds and fines.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said the telco has issued refunds of some $1.73 million to customers and paid a $506,160 infringement notice for failing to follow its order from 2020 for the same offence.
The agency found in 2020 that Telstra overcharged some 10,000 customers by some $2.5 million over a 12-year period, also due to billing issues. The company was issued a compliance notice as a result.
In a new investigation, ACMA said some 11,600 additional customers were issued inaccurate bills on top of the 10,000 customers, which also included some 4,400 that received incorrect bills after the compliance notice was issued.
“Telstra had already been formally directed by the ACMA to comply with billing rules so should have moved to address these issues and not inconvenienced its customers further,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.
“At a time when Australians are being very careful with their budgets, these errors are particularly concerning as they could have caused considerable strain and distress.
“Telecommunications is an essential service for Australian households and businesses, and there are no excuses for overcharging customers.”
Some 8000 affected customers were charged more than $1.2 million for Belong-branded broadband services after they had moved to another telco, with a few billed more than once. Other affected Telstra customers were either charged internet plan set-up fees that no longer applied or were overcharged for other phone services.
ACMA said Telstra self-reported the overcharging to ACMA, citing issues with its internal systems.
The telco claimed the issues were caused by a data transfer problem between its customer relationship management system and its billing system, manual processing errors and out-of-date employee instructions.
“Telstra is the largest telecommunications company in Australia. I would expect its billing systems to be more sophisticated and compliant with industry-wide consumer protection rules,” O’Loughlin said.
This new infringement comes only months after Telstra was fined by ACMA some $2.53 million due to ‘large-scale’ privacy rules breaches, specifically with failures in correctly updating the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND).
Telstra's closest rivals Optus and TPG Telecom also ran afoul of the ACMA earlier this year, also being ordered to issue refunds. The two companies handed out refunds of $4.4 million and $2.1 million, respectively, for not informing some of its customers that the advertised NBN speeds were not attainable.